|Kissed by the Oak|
Part 2: DiRosa Estate, Schug Winery
By Capt. Ken Kreisler — February 2002
About this time Sue, our cruise director, begins her spiel about the exciting, informative, and--well, yes, pretty-darn-neat wine country cruise we are about to experience. "A positive group dynamic is key to a successful event," she gently informs us.
Sue is a pro, waiting the proper beat after a joke, double entendre, or eyes-to-heaven-look to set her rhythm. She does her best predinner stand-up routine to warm up the crowd and get the camaraderie going amongst the 14 guests. We would soon, no doubt, all be singing "Kumbaya," swaying to and fro, our arms entwined with each other's.
Just then my table erupts in laughter in response to Mario's "yummy." "Our first night out and these guys are at it already. You," Sue smiles at the other tables first and then at me, "are cut off." Then she adds a little slice-across-the-neck motion with her right hand.
Sue is about to refer to a small, fold-out map of the Sonoma and Napa Valleys she has hung on a mirrored dining room bulkhead. From my vantage point at the far table, it might as well be of Botswana. "You know what," she says, scrunching her nose at the map, "since these are set out in the saloon, you can look at them at your leisure. Enjoy dinner."
Dinner was enjoyable, as was every meal we had aboard. Each was accompanied by wine, including chardonnay, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, pinot grigio, and cabernet. Entrees ranged from honey soy-glazed salmon to nut-encrusted chicken breast, all served with the utmost care and attention to detail, including sides of everything from brown rice to rosemary skewered prawns with Jack Daniels sauce.
The next morning--5 a.m. for my West Coast shipmates but 8 a.m. for me--I was awakened by the all-too-familiar sound of anchor chain being dumped into the chain locker. During breakfast the Quest meandered up the Petaluma River from our anchorage in San Pedro Bay to the town of the same name where we disembarked to our minivan. This van, chartered by American Safari Cruises, would meet us at every stop and take us to the wineries.
Our first stop was the DiRosa Estate, famed for its eclectic collection of contemporary art. We stayed here for about 90 minutes, and while not an art connoisseur, I did appreciate some of the exhibits. The collection is so varied that you just have to see it for yourself to garner any opinion. While there was no wine tasting here, there was at our next stop.
The Schug Winery, about 30 minutes from DiRosa, is in Sonoma's Carneros district, which is famous for its bright, cherry, berry, and slightly spicy, kissed-by-the-oak pinot noir. And yes, there really are Schugs. Patriarch Walter is the winemaster, Axel is his son, and Gertrude his wife. Their pinot is excellent, and so was the lunch served in the wine cellar. By the time we left, four or five bottles later, it had started to rain.
This article originally appeared in the January 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.